Dicentra is an extremely popular herbaceous perennial, perfect for brightening up a shady spot in early spring. It is in the papaver family (Papaveracea). Most Dicentra is native to eastern Asia and is hardy in Zones 2-8. Dicentra eximia and cucullaria is native to the Appalachian Mountains. Dicentra likes rich, well-drained soils. They have delicate, fern-like foliage.
Dicentra blooms impressively starting in late spring. During the summer heat, they will stop blooming, then go dormant and rest until next spring. If they are in a moister spot, the foliage can stay farther into summer. The blooms have the very unique shape of a hanging heart, some varieties more pronounced than others. They bloom the best in early spring, in a variety of color combinations. It can attract hummingbirds, they are bee friendly, and deer resistant.
Dicentra cucullaria – This variety is native to most of the east coast. Also, known as Dutchman’s Breeches, it has small, delicate white flowers, pollinated by ants. It only gets about 12” tall at maturity and is slower growing.
D. eximia – This variety is also native to the Appalachian Mountains, featuring pink to purple flowers early in the spring. 16” tall.
D. spectabilis (seen above) – When you look up Dicentra, this is the picture you see. One of my favorite perennials for a myriad of reasons. One of the oldest perennials in cultivation. This plant has a bushy habit, with powdery-green foliage. Atop that graces long chains of beautiful, puffy, heart-shaped flowers, with a small white protrusion coming out of the bottom of it. 30-36” tall and wide.
D. spectabilis ‘Alba’ – This cultivar is notable for it’s quintessential heart-shaped white flowers. It grows 30-36” tall and should be spaced 24-30” apart.
D. spectabilis ‘Valentine’ – This cultivar is known for many attributes. The first being it’s bushy, green foliage with purple stems, very noticeable in early spring when the foliage is just coming up. The second notable characteristic is the flower characteristics of D. spectabilis, but the flowers are a dark red, with the white protrusion. A must have for a shady spot. 30” tall and wide.
D. x ‘King Of Hearts’ – This cultivar is small, but packs a punch with stunning, rose-pink flowers atop dusky green foliage. 10-12” tall and 15” wide.
D. x ‘Luxuriant’ – This plant is absolute workhorse, and puts on a show of reddish-pink flowers, sitting atop blue-green fern-like foliage. 12-15” tall and wide.